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The Digital Sector Melvin Kaabwe When lockdown restrictions were eased after SABA engagements with Government, fewer customers flocked to Bookstores than to Liquor retailers! Strange times indeed!  Online sales of physical books are continuing to grow but less rapidly, and likely peaked in August. The sale of e-books was higher than usual across Academic and General by ±20%. Some publishers offered materials for free as a social response to the pandemic. Smaller stores and independents adjusted their websites for e-commerce and acquired social media shopping carts  for acquiring orders and as payment gateways and they used local courier services or even their own cars to deliver putting further pressure on their margins. Exclusive Books’ delivery was through UberEats reflecting that […]

Please join the 2020 SABA virtual conference and AGM – follow the link to the programme here and the link to register here.

With lockdown biting hard in the bookselling business, publisher Melinda Ferguson was determined not to just sit by and watch. Shortly before the first lockdown, Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola joked on the publisher’s WhatsApp group about writing a ‘coronavirus book’, and so the idea was born: all 17 writers on the group were challenged by Ferguson to deliver material within 10 days, which within hours turned into 7 days. ‘It was crazy. Everyone agreed. I’m not sure how that happened because there were a few real dawdlers in that group. Next thing copy was coming in and I just started editing furiously, briefing a cover and throwing crazy deadlines at the NB teams, who were all working from home and […]

South African bookworms rejoice! Bookchoice – the ‘Netflix of books’ – is finally on our shores. Now it’s as easy to get a great book as it is to stream a series. For R50 a month, you can receive a monthly delivery of eight curated ebooks and audiobooks, handpicked by a team of industry experts.  The membership based-service will make you feel like you’re part of a real-life book club, exposing you to top local and international authors to fast-track decision-making and add an element of discovery. We all know that feeling of delight when a parcel arrives. There’s that sense of suspense as you rip the box open to expose the unknown contents inside. Bringing that excitement to the […]

“Facebook is part of an industry that fetishizes seamlessness and supposed user-friendliness over privacy and transparency. By characterizing these connected services as “apps,” Facebook encourages us to sign our data away with a click in the name of seamless design–and rarely gives us a chance to object. That practice is now playing out in disastrous ways.” Read this very interesting article from fastco in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica news. Facebook’s App problem

The SA Booksellers Association is proud to announce the completion of an online Bookseller’s Programme. The association has worked with Tuit, an online learning service provider, to publish the learning material online. The courses are now ready and available via the Tuit online course shop at Bookselling course There are a total of 11 courses all of which can be done as separate modules for the cost of ZAR 1500 per course, covering the various aspects of Bookselling, they include: The Bookselling Landcape Bookshop Marketing Bookshop Customer Service Bookshop Design Digital Bookselling in SA Legal Requirements for Bookshops HR for Bookshops Book Knowledge Children’s Books Book Buying Bookshop Operations Each course costs R1500 Courses 1-9 are all available from the […]

Will the goal of updating the law for the Internet Age sacrifice creative industry instead? In December it will be 20 years since South Africa signed international copyright treaties to bring its copyright laws into the digital age. South Africa has still not ratified these treaties and the Copyright Act has not been amended to apply to the Internet environment, resulting in uncertainty for creative industry and consumers alike. The Copyright Amendment Bill, introduced in May 2017, has the object of addressing this deficiency, but is so poorly drafted and introduces so many other egregious provisions, that it has led to more questions than answers, as well as vociferous debate. The Bill was preceded by the findings of the Copyright […]

As a Frankfurt BookFair Business Club 2017 Ambassador I had the opportunity to work with the Fair organisers on creating unique experiences for some important visitors in Frankfurt this year. I was the only African representative. In the Business Club, I found many of the discussions applicable as learning experiences for the South African Book industry. Kallimat’s Approach to international business, for example, is interesting. Kalimat has come up with an ingenious way to get their best Arabic literature translated into many other languages and disseminated across many other territories. The key is a partnership format in which Kalimat exchanges titles for translation with other major global publishers. This process guarantees not only translations but also sales – every publishing […]

November 19 2017 marked the 10th anniversary of the first Kindle. What’s easy to forget, Vice President of Kindle content David Naggar says, was the sheer wireless convenience introduced by the Kindle. “It wasn’t the hardware itself,” he says, “that caused the Kindle to explode all of a sudden, or that it came from Amazon. It was the fact that it was the first piece of consumer hardware in history to be connected to a cellphone network where the customer paid nothing for it. You were able to sit anywhere—at a bar next to a friend who said, ‘I just read this great book, you should try it’—and 60 seconds later, that book was on your device and ready to […]

Print and e-book sales are on the rise, while audiobook sales are seeing rapid growth despite being largely untapped by most publishers, according to early results from The Bookseller’s Digital Census, the annual tracker of the digital transformation run annually ahead of the FutureBook Conference. Just over half of UK publishers have seen growth in revenue from digital sales in the last year. The publishers who saw rapid growth put this down to three key drivers—pricing strategy, marketing and a better understanding of their readers. Read more here.

More than 50 speakers from across the publishing, retail and entertainment industries will address delegates at December’s FutureBook Conference. The event, to be held in London on 1st December, also includes dedicated conferences on the AudioBook and EdTech markets. Topics under discussion on the day will include how best to capture and retain new readers, how to make better and sell more audiobooks, how to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence, and what publishing can learn from the video on demand business. There will also be presentations from three new audiobook retailers, and from Lis Tribe, m.d. of Hodder Education and Publishers Association president. Read more here.

The impact of digital technologies continues to be felt by booksellers. It is no longer a fear of digital taking over as it is a necessity for traditional bricks and mortar operations to adapt to the changes brought on by digital in terms of customer expectations. Customers expect experiences that reflect the use of these new technologies for their benefit in terms of convenience, efficiency and individualism. World Wide Worx reports that e-commerce in South Africa as a percentage of total retail sales is still under 3%. E-Commerce world-wide is growing at between 21-25%. Online retail of books in SA by the well-known SA Bookseller members seems to be tracking the global trend. The e-commerce channels of booksellers is trending […]

In a question and answer period with analysts following the release of its results for 2016, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky touched on why the online giant has opened bookstores and other physical stores. “We think the bookstores for instance are a really great way for customers to engage with our devices and see them, touch them, play with them and become fans. So we see a lot of value in that,” Olsavsky said. He indicated that Amazon will continue to add more physical spaces, saying that “we’re still in that phase where we’re testing and learning and getting better.” He had no definitive word on expansion plans for the bookstores, noting that the company will open five bookstores this year […]

Frankfurt was abuzz this year with a variety of talking points for publishers, booksellers and related stakeholders all facing an exciting new phase in the evolving story of human-kinds finest invention, the book. The guest of honour this year was the Netherlands and Flanders region. I was most pleased to see the vast array and depth of available content from all genres and variety of forms. The availability of book content has never been more engaging for people to enjoy, from pop-up books to holographic electronic reserves of digital content. Now more than ever, there really is something for everyone to find accessible. Some of the most interesting topics for me and other trade visitors related to digital were:

Google vs Microsoft vs Apple “Since the Apple IIe desktop computer found a home in California schools in the 80’s, ushering in the era of the classroom PC, Apple and Microsoft have vied for the attention of American students. With the introduction of the iPad in 2010, Apple had a tool poised to displace the PC as an education essential, and the app-based software to go along with it. Within a few years, the company was selling millions of the touch-screen devices to schools, eclipsing Microsoft, which was marketing its own devices and free Office software to students. In 2013, Apple devices accounted for 50% of shipments to U.S. classrooms, according to research firm Futuresource Consulting. Microsoft, despite its lead […]

Baroness Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House UK, delivered an educated and insightful speech on Thursday 13th October as part of a debate in the House of Lords, where Lord Bird moved that the House of Lords take “note of the cultural, civic and educational significance of local libraries and independent bookshops in the United Kingdom. “My Lords,” she said. “I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for initiating this debate. The big issue for me – if I may borrow a phrase from my noble Lord – is books and their enduring importance to civil society and the extent to which both bookshops and libraries are essential to their continued success. Without both, we will […]

By Melvin Kaabwe. The year saw a further investment by Gauteng into e-learning solutions and an expanded tablet roll-out for public k-12 (basic education) schools. In the private sector, all the chain k-12 education providers continue to improve their own versions of e-learning with emphasis on additonal Learning Teacher Student Materials (LTSM) whilst upskilling teachers to develop more interactive content for their students.

Although we may be watching slightly less television per day than we did in 2000, our eyes, in the words of our mothers, are definitely still getting squarer. According to We Are Social 2015, South Africans are now spending twice as much time again on web-based media as they do viewing television. Online video views are growing at a tremendous rate, now accounting for a quarter of our web activity, a close second to social media activity. Apart from watching traditional 2D video recordings, viewers can now easily dip into live streaming video content as it is being recorded, as well as watch interactive video, 3D video, and immersive content such as VR (Virtual Reality) video and 360 degree video.

The Digital Book World conference took place in March and though the printed book was very much the prom queen, the four major American tech companies of our age were likened to the four horsemen of the Apocalypse of the event.

Today is the final day of the Digital Book World conference in New York City. Lucky for those of us who could not attend, the Publishing Perspectives team was there and Porter Anderson has and will be posting insightful pieces on the take home points from the conference. Interestingly enough, the feedback from the first day, which focused on the children’s market, is that children are “highly attached to physical books” and that they find locating good content on digital platforms difficult. Check out Porter’s feature piece here.

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